The league seasons for boys’ and girls’ high school soccer and girls’ water polo are fast approaching, and Catholic teams are among those expected to be in the championship mix come playoff time in February and March.
Following is a breakdown of teams and players to watch for in 2017-18. (A separate girls’ and boys’ basketball preview will run at a later date.)
Numerous All-CIF first team selections will return for their respective schools in 2017-18, including four from San Gabriel Mission’s Division 7 championship team, led by Coach of the Year Cisco Gomez: juniors Melissa Estrada (D-7 Player of the Year) and Juliana Lopez, and seniors Alyssa Lopez and Emily Aceves-Campos.
Other returning stars are Junipero Serra junior Isabella D’Aquila (Player of the Year for the D-1 champions) and sophomore Jordan Gather; Mater Dei sophomore Kelly McManus; Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks senior Carolyn Richards; Bishop Amat junior Nayeli Diaz; Marymount senior Cate Rozelle; and St. Genevieve junior Evelyn Gomez.
The CIF’s “Teams to Watch” in 2017-18 include:
> Division 1: Junipero Serra (ranked first at the end of the 2016-17 regular season) and Mater Dei (runner-up to Junipero Serra in the D-1 final).
> Division 2: Bishop Amat (ranked first in D-3 last year).
> Division 3: Alemany (No. 8 last year) and Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks.
> Division 6: San Gabriel Mission (ranked first in D-7 last year) and Alverno Heights (10th in D-7).
> Division 7: Ramona Convent and St. Mary’s Academy.
Last season, Coach of the Year Stephen Raab’s Santa Clara Saints earned the CIF Division 7 championship, after being ranked fifth at the end of the regular season, and are expected to do well in 2017-18 — this time, in Division 6.
The CIF’s “Teams to Watch” in 2017-18 also include:
> Division 1, Cathedral (which ended last season ranked No. 1), Servite (ranked fourth), Loyola and St. John Bosco.
> Division 2: Salesian (ranked third in D-3 last year) and St. Francis.
> Division 5: Bishop Amat.
> Division 7: St. Pius-St. Matthias Academy and Verbum Dei.
Among the top players returning in 2017-18 are a pair of juniors who made the D-7 All-CIF first team last season: St. Anthony’s Brendan McDaid and Verbum Dei’s Andres Flores.
Girls’ water polo
As in boys’ water polo, Divisions 1 and 2 teams are grouped together and not separated until the playoffs begin in February. Trinity League rivals Mater Dei — No. 2 last year and led by All-CIF first team choices Grace Thawley and Isabella Baia, now seniors — and Santa Margarita (No. 9 last year) are among the “Teams to Watch” in 2017-18.
Other teams expected to do well include Alemany in D-5 (seventh last year), Junipero Serra in D-6, and Marymount in D-7.
And, as in other sports, teams within the same league are sometimes placed in different divisions for playoff purposes. The Trinity League also includes Rosary (D-3) and Junipero Serra (D-6), while the Mission League includes Alemany, Flintridge Sacred Heart and Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks from D-5, Louisville from D-6 and Marymount from D-7.
Mayfield (D-5) and La Salle (D-7) are in the Prep League. Other Catholic schools participating in girls’ water polo this season are St. Lucy’s (D-4, Baseline), Villanova (D-7, Frontier), Pomona Catholic (D-7, Montview) and St. Joseph/Lakewood (D-7, San Gabriel Valley).